Coping With Misadventure

When plans don't go right
Photo credit: David Castillo,

Recently, my family flew to an island for a vacation getaway. We had worked hard to book a nice place, spent a lot of money, and lost sleep to get there. As you can guess by the title of the post, it didn’t go as smoothly as we had anticipated. One of our bags was lost on the flight, the room turned out to be in an undesirable part of the hotel, the weather started off poor (for me, that means anything other than warm sunshine!), and it was very loud (people yelling at 3am).

It was interesting to watch the family dynamic as we reacted. One of us just fell apart, becoming discouraged/down/angry. One of us tried to keep a happy, cheerful attitude, and a couple of us just tried to keep our heads down and be invisible. It’s easy to get upset when plans don’t work out… especially carefully laid, expensive plans. Fortunately for us, the vacation improved and we had a wonderful time. But in the heat of the moment, it was easy to lose perspective. If you should find yourself in a similar situation, try and tell yourself the following.

Careful planning doesn’t guarantee good results.

If you are like me – a meticulous planner – this is a tough reality. We want to feel in control, but we really aren’t. Planning is important as it minimizes unnecessary problems, and can equip us to “flex” when the unexpected happens, but we shouldn’t expect that our plans will always unfold as envisioned. More importantly, we shouldn’t consider ourselves failures when this happens. The world is a highly complex organism, and we are just a few cogs on the wheel. Sometimes the machine will run smoothly, and sometimes it won’t.

There is more going right than is going wrong.

Many people say “why me?” but I often think “why not me?” Life isn’t fair – but most of the time (for me, at least), it isn’t fair in my favor. I’m not living in a war torn country. My children don’t have a fatal illness. I have plenty of food and clothing. I have a job (which I really enjoy…), and I have people in my life whom I love and who love me. In the game of “unfair” I have definitely been a winner.

Response is a choice.

I know this is hard to believe, but it really is true. We can’t control circumstances, and we can’t even control our initial emotional response. We can, however, decide how we will act (what we will say &do) when facing a disappointing situation. This is important, because how we react often cascades out to those around us. Let’s say a birthday party doesn’t turn out quite as you expect… the gifts you carefully selected aren’t received with the joy you had anticipated, or the cake you ordered gets dropped on the way to the table. Yes, it might be a let down, and you might feel sad or even angry. But spending the rest of the day moping won’t make you feel any better, and will probably make others feel worse. Circumstances only have as much power on us as we allow them to have. Most times, trying to laugh at ourselves or the situation can be the best response.

Someday, this will make a great story.

Craziness, disasters, and nightmares often look humorous in hindsight. Furthermore, they can be a way for people to feel close as they reminisce about an emotionally charged, shared experience. Of course, true tragedies are never a joke. But if the situation is more tumultuous than tragic, it might end up being one of the “great family stories.”

No one ever plans or hopes for a disappointment. But if we can keep life’s bumps in perspective, we will definitely have a more pleasant ride.

How have you coped with an unexpected mishap or misadventure?


14 thoughts on “Coping With Misadventure”

  1. I think, like you mention in the end, I’d turn it into a great story. It’s the writer/photographer in me. So maybe years ago I’d have been the one to fall apart and get discouraged and sad. Now that I’m a parent, I’d probably try to rally. If that didn’t work, I’d write a lot and take a heck of a lot of photos. Adventure or misadventure, it might really work out.

    And bonus? It is something I can control. Maybe the only thing, but I’ll take it.

    1. I find that rallying for the sake of the kids can end up being a good thing! Knowing you, you would end up with some terrific photos of the whole thing — which would make a great blog:)

  2. I’m a planner as well and catch myself falling into the falling apart/angry category more times than I’d like to admit. It something I really try to work on. So much of our experiences in life rely on our attitude about them. I loved your thoughts on coping with misadventures/disappointments. I intend to apply them in 2014! Wish me luck 🙂

    1. Good luck, Dawn! I think planners like us have a harder time when things go wrong — because we’ve worked so hard to make everything run smoothly! Here’s to a great, if not smooth, 2014!!

  3. Travel can be so unpredictable. Add children to the mix, and it can turn into a recipe for disaster! After years of business travel with multiple delays, nights spent in roach motels, missed connections, unnecessary security patdowns, and more, I’ve learned to go with the flow. But it’s a whole other game when the kiddos are involved!

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Nicole. We were delayed 3 hours coming home. But I kept reminding myself (and my husband) that we were LUCKY because we didn’t have anyone who needed more diapers than I had, or an elderly person on medication or oxygen. If patience is all that is required, then I just need to buck up and deal!

  4. I love love love this post. It sort of is the one people probably need to see depending on how they look at their 2014 planning or just planning of trips and specific things too. I did used to think I was a failure when things didn’t happen as I planned them and now I’m sort of at the other end of the spectrum with mostly not planning at all which might be crazy for some people like you who like to plan things out 🙂

    1. Me too Brittnei! I’m such a planner, but I’m trying to relax, and definitely not go into “self condemnation” mode. I have a tendency to want to control everything, and that can just add to the stress. Here’s to trying to go with the flow in 2014!

    1. We ended up having a nice time.. mostly just a rough start. But its funny how initial feelings can be carried into the ensuing days – which is really a waste, when you’ve spent so much time and effort to be there, right?

  5. Oh, this has happened to me on vacation more times than I care to admit! I have been the one to melt down, the one to keep a cheerful attitude, the one to put her head in the sand. I’m so glad I found your blog (thanks for stopping by mine, earlier), and I love the daily challenge you are doing! Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you too Amy! That’s a good point– we take turns reacting in different ways, right? I’m so thankful that we ended up having a great time after the initial upheaval:) Hope you enjoy the daily challenges.. getting organized is such a great feeling!

  6. Great advice Seana.
    One definition of organizing I have always liked is “controlling the controllables.”
    Of course most things NOT controllable, so it’s important not to let that bother you.

    1. I like that definition, Matt. It is very freeing to let yourself off the hook for those things which were unexpected or beyond our sphere of influence, right? Especially because – as you point out – MOST things are not controllable:)

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